We had the good fortune of connecting with Barry Schwartz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Barry, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Rather than pursuing my career, it pursued me. I’ve been creating things out of nothing and paying attention to art and how it is made since I was a child. I starting photographing seriously in my teens, darkroom on the floor of my bedroom and all, but by the time I turned twenty thought I did not have what it took in terms of grit and, no small thing, money. Every few years, however, I would find a camera – even a borrowed one – and dive back in. I started getting published editorially in my twenties. Then, I would put the camera down again. This pattern repeated for many years.
In the meantime, I was lucky enough to get some ad-hoc training in critical thinking from a first-rate mentor and learned to write non-fiction and was published as a freelancer — though I always had a day-job. Until I was thirty, I was a dedicated amateur musician, singing in choirs and in bands (a tenor-baritone with a three-octave range), and also played percussion, including for dance. My day job was as a self-employed carpenter, contractor, and designer. For all those years I never stopped reading and writing, looking at art, and making photographs. All this background turned out to be incredibly useful once I turned pro as a photographer seventeen years ago, where I was not intimidated by contracts or collaboration, understood marketing, and respected my peers as well as the history that predated us all. I remain thrilled in the processes that produce something beautiful, or, at the very least, useful.
By the time I saw the words the great designer Milton Glazer had placed above the door to his offices – “Art Is Work” – I knew exactly when he meant.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
It was an obvious move to become an architectural photographer, given my professional background; I understand the culture and marketing needs of architects and designers and vendors. Also, I’ve always photographed people and have particular interest in making images of people working – also a result of my prior career. I try to make something compelling that contains meaning for the viewer. Sometimes that comes out of my commercial responsibilities as a member of my clients’ marketing efforts. Sometimes it’s the result of pro-bono work for organizations I believe in enough to give away my work for free. Sometimes it’s the work I do simply to please myself.
Like everyone else, it’s a continual challenge to fund my business, be seen in the proper venues, and find the people I want to work with. In the end, it’s just work, work, and work. And stay open. I used to sweat what my brand means, but now I subscribe to what the designer Robert Brunner once wrote: “You don’t own your brand. A brand isn’t a logo or packaging. It’s a gut feeling. And when two people have the same gut feeling, you have a brand.”
I also write about my trade and teach workshops in professional practices, which is a great give-back; however like many teachers, the real bonus for me is how my own processes improve through the work of articulating what and how and why professional photographers and creative-types do what we do.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Here’s a few: Musso & Frank’s, Olvera Street, the beach, Mulholland Drive, Kanpai in Westchester, The Norton Simon, (or really, any museum of any kind), galleries, bookstores, the West Adams district, Amoeba Records, Little Dom’s, Santa Monica Seafood, my friends.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Community. As a photographer and educator I owe everything to my peers and colleagues. Without the community I gained as I got serious about photography, I don’t now how I would have managed. I’ve been a member of ASMP (the American Society Of Media Photographers) since 2005, including being in leadership and contributing to books and blogs and the website, where I remain an editor. I’m also a member of NPPA (National Press Photographers Association), SPE (Society of Photographic Educators), and AIAP (Assoc. of Independent Architectural Photographers), and PEN. The value in having access to the resources these organizations offer is matched by being able to pick up the phone, get on a Zoom, or ask a question or start a dialogue with a colleague. That remains true even on forums and Facebook and Instagram. Having a community is fun – you can kvetch with someone who understands where you’re coming from!
Other: My blog – not so much photos as about professional practices: https://barryschwartznotbarryschwartz.com
All photographs Copyright Barry Schwartz.